How to handle tight calves and hamstrings.

I was tweeted yesterday by Charles who is suffering from tight calves and hamstrings following running 60km over a 5 day period (see below)


Right Charles, firstly top effort mate. I found very early on in this running streak that unless you sort out a good Pre and Post run routine you are going to pay. I think it was in the 2nd and 3rd week of my challenge, so between about 50km-130km, where my body started to crumble, and this was due solely to the fact that I was not doing the basics right. I had a very relaxed view to stretching and massage and while you can get away with this to some extent when you are running once or twice a week, when you are running every day you need to give your muscles every opportunity to recover. So I had to put a plan in place, I did what most people do I hit the web, but I also sought advice from professional coaches and sports physiotherapist. So with plenty of  help I formulated a plan that so far has worked pretty well for me. So what is it that I do?

1.     Stretching/warm up


I found this exercise on the Kinetic Revolution website and it has really helped me to keep calf pain low, I do this dynamic stretch/warm up both pre and post run and it really has made a massive difference and as they rightly point out

“The “toes-in” and “toes-out” elements of this dynamic warm-up exercise really help to reach areas of the calf complex, Achilles tendon and even plantar fascia that a more classic calf stretch won’t touch”

In regards to the hamstrings I perform a standard dynamic lunge an example of which can be seen on this link. I do a good 20 reps of this stretch.

These are the two main stretches that I do before I go running I also do both of these at the end of my run too.

2.     Cool those muscles down


When I have completed my run, I stretch and warm down using the previous stretches.  Then I make sure that I cool the muscles down quickly, this can be done a number of ways

  • Ice pack (bag of peas)
  • Cover your legs in Snow
  • Bath of cold water (you don’t need a bath of ice just run the cold tap only and sit in there for a good 10mins)
  • Bin of cold water.

Now the bin of cold water is my favorite, after every run I stand in the water filled bin for between 5-10 minutes depending on the length of the run or how my legs are feeling. The reason for this and any of the other methods mentioned is to reduce the inflammation of the muscles.

3.     Foam Roller


I have a foam roller that I use to massage my legs below are the areas I concentrate on

  • Hamstrings: Sit on a foam roller with your legs outstretched, and support yourself by placing your hands on the floor behind you. Position yourself so the roller is directly under your hamstrings. Slowly roll forwards and back from the base of your glutes to the bend in your knee for 30 seconds.
  • Quads: Lie on your stomach with the roller placed under your thighs. Holding the body straight, roll yourself back and forth from hip to mid-thigh for 30 seconds. Bend the knees to increase the pressure.
  • Calves: Position the roller under the calves. Using your hands for support, slowly roll from the knee down to the ankle pausing on any tight or sore spots. Roll with your feet turned in and out. Keep toes flexed and pointed to work the entire muscle group.

4.     Deep heat and Compression


After my attack by the massage roller I have a good rub down with deep heat on mainly my calves and then I put my compression calf guards on for a couple of hours to really increase the blood flow to the muscle.

I hope this helps Charles

 I would love to know what you guys do to help prevent sore calves and Hamstrings or just in general whats your pre/post run routine?


6 thoughts on “How to handle tight calves and hamstrings.

  1. I wear compression socks for a few hours after long runs and man do they ever work! I wake up the next day with no muscle soreness or stiffness.

  2. I think your advice is great. The only other thing I do to help muscles recover when my running volume is high is to get the carbs back into the system quickly. I use the High5 4:1 recovery drink. I am told the muscles are particularly receptive to being replenished in the 15-20 mins straight after a run so I would get a 1/2 litre down me straight away and then have a carb rich meal an hour or so later. I have really noticed the difference if i have done big runs and not remembered my recovery nutrition.

    • Thanks for the feedback. Good plan, I use the High 5 zero’s when on long runs or in the warmer months but never tried the recovery drinks I have a For Goodness Shakes recovery pack on the way from the athlete store so will see how they go. Cheers

  3. Pingback: Hurting, so so much | Pain is Temporary - Confessions of Spartan newbie.

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